My dear coaching client—Marilu in Gig Harbor, Washington—recently sent me a recipe for Meatless Mexican Filling. As she claimed ownership of her body and began to hear its signals, she began to crave high-flavor, meatless, dishes. Those plant-food cravings resulted in this fantastic whole-grain and lentil pilaf that lends itself to endless flavor profiles and combinations. I modified it slightly and added plenty of suggestions for ways to enjoy it as part of your favorite dishes.
Although I don’t like to make “alternative” dishes by substituting out the meat or fat, in this case I find the taste inherently delicious. I don’t consider it an adaptation but rather, a contemporary spin on rice. Whole grains have a rustic, nutty flavor and when cooked al dente have a toothy mouth feel, similar to ground meat. Could you add a little pork sausage or beef? Sure, but with plenty of flavor and texture you just don’t need it. This preparation stands alone.
Meatless Whole Grain Chili
Makes 12 cups
Although red quinoa is less widely available, it is lovely in this dish because it keeps the appearance darker—more like chili with meat. Swap in other alternative grains such as: teff, kamut, spelt, millet, hemp seed, or chia seed. Feel free to use this basic mixture as a foundation for many different flavor profiles. Instead of chili flavorings try using Italian herbs and garlic, Indian curry spices with peas and coconut milk, Moroccan spices with almonds, carrots, squash and garbanzo beans, or any other flavors you like. Serve this hot with sour cream and corn bread, as burrito filling, or as a delicious stuffing for squash, cabbage, pork loin, or peppers. Alternately, try it cold piled on top of salad with avocado, tomatoes, cheese, and ranch dressing.
1 cup lentils
1 ½ cups brown rice
½ cup yellow or red quinoa
½ cup barley
½ cup whole oat groats (*optional)—available in bulk bins at many markets
2 teaspoons salt
For Chili Flavoring:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
2 large bay leaves
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika (smoked or regular)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon—or to taste of dried ground hot chili (arbol, cayenne, New Mexico, pasilla)*optional
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 1 ½ cups diced fresh tomatoes with juices)
1 cup water or vegetable stock
4 cups fresh spinach, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a rice cooker prepare grains with salted water according to manufacturer’s directions, or use 2 cups water for every 1 cup grain. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large lidded pot. Add onion and dry spices and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and water and stir to deglaze pan. Set aside until grains are cooked.
Stir cooked grains and lentils into the onion-spice mixture. Add spinach and stir. Simmer on low heat for up to 2 hours. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more water or tomatoes if mixture becomes dry. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to a week. Freezes well.
Tres Hatch is the author of Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy.